I think it’s important that we understand our need for both. As science keeps telling us, we are social creatures. Even introverts like me need some sort of social activity and friends. We also need those intimate relationships where we can hit those emotional connections. Romantic relationships are an obvious example here, but other relationships can also be our emotional connection.
The lack of one of these will feel like loneliness, but the “fix” will be different. If I’m well-connected to my wife but missing out on the variety of social connections that a larger friend group might provide, that’s where my focus should be, and it might show up differently. The lack of an emotional connection would also look different and brings with it a different set of risks.
The suggestion is that more focus should be on triggering events for men; breakups, job loss, and other traumas. That is true. The findings make it clear that a combination of triggering events, alcohol/drugs, and gun ownership will increase the likelihood of suicides.
Here’s the thing, though. I can’t help but wonder if the reason this combination is so deadly is not so much because men do not have mental health issues and then are suddenly contemplating suicide at the first sign of trauma, but that this is simply the final straw in a prolonged mental health struggle that they have never talked to anyone about.
Kids who show the signs of struggling with mental health issues do a heck of a lot better if we intervene. Sadly, we don’t do it enough. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have any intervention to offer them. There are no resources available to far too many families. Other times parents and adults are afraid to look for help due to the stigma associated with mental health issues, hoping the kid will grow out of it.
See, it’s easy to tell people who live pretty comfortable lives what a difference some time in nature can make for their anxiety or other issues. People living in poverty or dealing with racism every day might not get the same benefit from an afternoon hike. We don’t know what impact it would have, because we’ve mainly only been testing in relatively wealthy countries with relatively wealthy subjects.
We should be considering all of the societal and environmental obstacles that exist for people when it comes to mental health challenges. I suspect it’s only very recently that we’ve begun to do that, so any of our typical “advice” about self-care might not be appropriate until we’ve done more.
Despite childhood trauma’s disadvantages, kids can recover after childhood trauma and live perfectly healthy, successful lives. They need help. They need a support system and people there to help them navigate it, but childhood trauma is not, as we often hear a life sentence.
I wish we would talk about this more. Survivors could use the reminder.